In 1663, while English author John Bunyan was in his third year of a cruel imprisonment for preaching illegally, he wrote a short devotional book, The Spirit of Prayer.
In 2012, writer, farmwife and homeschooling mom Ann Voskamp saw publication of her One Thousand Gifts Devotional (Zondervan).
While these two approached their manuscripts in ways as different as their times, they shared much. Both focused on what God was doing in their lives, speaking not as ecclesiastical authorities, but simply sharing what was in their hearts and minds. It was up to the readers to decide what was applicable and take those parts away for their own Christian walk.
This is devotional writing—a glimpse into another person’s faith journey and the opportunity to perhaps gain some nuggets of wisdom and teachings of truth.
Contemporary writers and publishers have shaped the devotional as a quick read that includes a Scripture as the text, a short story to illuminate that text and perhaps a challenge for the day. These can usually be read in under 10 minutes.
Devotionals can be separated into some common categories. These include:
• The Full-Year Read. Most of us would be hard pressed to write a month’s worth of engaging short stories about how God is working in our lives. Yet Joni Eareckson Tada engages her readers page after page in Pearls of Great Price (Zondervan). Whether her story is about a Bible verse, a woman in need, her relationship with her husband, a trip to New York or the challenges she has faced, Joni brings insights and wisdom.
• A Study Devotional. In very different ways, exceptional Bible teachers illuminate the Scriptures with their studies, lives and stories they’ve been told.
Good examples are Beth Moore in her Jesus: 90 Days with the One and Only (B&H Books) and Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby with Experiencing God Day-by-Day (B&H Books). Both offer readers space within the book for written responses to the text, helpful for those who like to keep track of insights, promptings and thoughts.
• Best-Seller Editions. Christian writer Sarah Young has had immense success in the last few years with her book, Jesus Calling (Thomas Nelson). One follow-up to that is Jesus Today, a series of short entries that grew out of Young’s prayer life. Written in first person as Jesus, millions have been encouraged by Young’s writing.
• Personal Experience Books. Since 2005, Rob and Susan Cottrell have been sending out “HopeMinute” emails as a ministry to families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. The emails have been gathered into a devotional—HopeMinute: One Minute That Will Change Your Day (Summerside).
• Robert Wolgemuth teaches university-level Bible literature and has written 20 books. Bobbie Wolgemuth, his wife, has written several books about family. Together, they have produced the Couples of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Couples in Scripture (Zondervan). They look at the lives of Jacob and Rachel, David and Michal, Joseph and Mary, Christ and His Bride and many others.
A Few Classics
Each New Day (Revell). Corrie ten Boom reflects on life as a World War II concentration-camp survivor and writer of The Hiding Place.
Mornings with Tozer (WingSpread). Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor A.W. Tozer was a simple man with a profound faith.
My Utmost for His Highest (Barbour Books). This classic was first published in 1935, 18 years after the death of the writer, Oswald Chambers.
Streams in the Desert (Zondervan). Writing as L.B., Lettie Burd Cowman assembled the text from writings by Saint Augustine, Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley and many others.
Writers and editors Cindy Sproles and Eddie Jones coproduce a website offering daily devotions from a long list of writers. Cindy’s latest book of devotions is New Sheets (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas). Cindy spoke about the work from her home.
“When I first started writing devotionals, I wrote one every day for five years just for myself. That was how I learned how to do this. Of course, it forced me to study and pray a lot, as well.
“Within the website’s first month, we went from about 200 people looking at the site to about 1,000. That was definitely God giving the go-ahead to it.
“Sometimes I’ll just hear somebody say something and I kind of catch it, and I think, ‘Well, there’s a devotion in that.’
“A devotion has to have a story that people relate to. A Scripture that fits with it. A life application. And a devotion is not a devotion unless the reader takes away something they can apply to their own life.
“Through doing this work, God has become not just my Father, but my best friend. He’s now part of my daily routine.”
Visit christiandevotions.us for more daily devotions.
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